Corey Erhardt: All Uphill For RMC Alum
For a good part of the summer it’s an uphill battle for Corey Erhardt. He’s one of a number of motorcyclists who attack steep vertical terrain to see if they can get to the top of formidable hills.
When Erhardt muscled his 220 pound motorcycle through the spongy dirt at the Great American Hill Climb and pounced to the top, he won the second major hill climbing event of the summer.
Erhardt, a 2004 Rocky Mountain College graduate, is accustomed to reaching the top of the hill first and fastest. Erhardt scored a win at the Big Sky Challenge in May in the first of the Rockwell Professional Hillclimb Series and then took top honors at the Great American Hillclimb in July.
“He’s just fast,” promoter Bob Spadt told The Billings Gazette.
He’s also nimble, according to other hillclimb experts, and you have to be both, able to maintain balance and direction as the bike tries to buck you off in the thick churned up muck that makes hillclimbs exciting.
Experience also plays a big role.
“I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was four years old,” Erhardt, 30, said. “My parents both rode motorcycles and four wheelers so we would go camping a lot when I was young.”
When winter comes, Erhardt takes on the exact opposite challenge. Then it’s all downhill. He’s an avid snowboarder.
The sport of hill climbing is unusual. There are not many opportunities to practice. You cannot simply find a hill and make practice runs to perfect your technique.
“The hill we ran this past weekend is closed all year and only gets ridden once a year for the hillclimb.” he said. “We do not get any practice on the hills we ride for competition. A rider gets two attempts and that is it.”
Some hills just do not get many riders over the top so it’s exhilarating when you accelerate and ram up and over. Erhardt has enjoyed that acceleration and exhilaration more than most. He has consistently scored hillclimb victories. He was ranked number one in 450 Exhibition in 2009; fifth in 450 Exhibition in 2011; and third in 700 Exhibition and fifth in Open Exhibition in 2011.
“It’s a great hobby,” he said, “but, no, you don’t earn enough to quit your day job.”
He wouldn’t want to anyway. For the past four years Erhardt has been lab supervisor and chemist for CHS, Inc.
“It’s a great job,” he said.
Erhardt oversees testing and certifying fuels for the refinery located in Laurel.
The job was made possible by majoring in chemistry and biology at RMC. The Billings West grad said he considered Carroll College and RMC, but made the right choice for him by choosing RMC.
“I fit. There were a lot of good people at Rocky. Claire (Dr. Claire Oakley) and Cristi (Dr. Cristi Hunnes) were certainly memorable,” he said.
Erhardt “was a very nice young man,” Dr. Oakley remembers.
His favorable experience at RMC was improved when he met his fiancée, Tina Ayers. Corey and Tina were introduced after Corey’s mom met Tina while watching Corey at a hillclimbing event.
“Yeah, she kind of fixed us up,” Erhardt smiled.
Tina, a biology major, graduated in 2011; they will be married in February.
Erhardt pitches in to help his alma mater, according to Dr. Gavin Kirton, RMC assistant professor, chemistry.
He donated a lot of glassware to the chemistry department, including a lot of pipettes and burettes (the more valuable) as well as beakers, flasks, and cylinders. This was from his lab at the refinery, destined for the dumpster,” Kirton mentioned.
“I think if you’re an alumni you do what you can,” Erhardt said.
Corey Erhardt, RMC'2004, muscles his motorcycle to the top of the hill to capture the Great American Hillclimb Championship. Photo: Bob Zellar, Billings Gazette